Arrested Development: Season Two review by Mike Long

One of the drawbacks of reviewing home video items is that I'm often commenting on things after the fact. The movies have already played in the theaters and the televisions shows have already aired, and thusly, other critics have said things about them. This situation is especially dire when dealing with something which has received as much critical praise as Arrested Development. So, as Arrested Development: Season Two hits DVD, all that I can say is this: This is the best TV show since the debut of The Simpons and if you aren't watching it, you're missing out on one of the true highlights of American television. OK, now on with the review.

(SPOILER WARNING!: In order to describe Arrested Development: Season Two, I must divulge some of the plot-lines for the shows, as well as discuss events from Season 1. So, if you haven't seen Season 1 and want to be surprised by Season 2, read with caution.) The first season of Arrested Development introduced us to the highly-dysfunctional Bluth family. Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) suddenly found himself in charge of the family's business, after his father, George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) was arrested for illegal business practices. This also meant that Michael was the new benefactor of his family; Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), Michael's mother, a mean-spirited alcoholic who loves to make everyone feel guilty; George Bluth II (Will Arnett), better known as "Gob", Michael's older brother, a failed magician who acts impulsively and often regrets those actions; Lindsay Bluth Fumke (Portia de Rossi), Michael's twin sister, a spoiled rich girl who focuses more on herself than on her husband and daughter; Tobias Fumke (David Cross), Lindsay's husband, a disgraced psychiatrist who wants to be an actor; George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera), Michael's son, a shy boy who is in love with his cousin; Maeby Fumke (Alia Shawkat), Michael's niece, a clever girl who has learned to manipulate her parents; Buster Bluth (Tony Hale), Michael's younger brother, who lives with Lucille and may be the ultimate "momma's boy". We also have George, Sr.'s twin-brother Oscar (also played by Tambor), a pot-smoking hippie who crashes at Lucille's.

As Season One came to a close, George, Sr. had escaped from prison by feigning a heart-attack and fleeing from the hospital. In Season Two, the family, well, mostly Michael, is dealing with George, Sr.'s disappearance, as Michael is now the primary target of the government's investigation. Despite this huge distraction, Michael still attempts to keep the Bluth Company afloat. He also devotes as much time as possible to his son, George Michael. In an attempt to get over his feelings for his cousin, Michael has began seeing a girl named Ann (Mae Whitman), a girl so bland that Michael keeps forgetting her name. As Tobias continues to pursue his dream of acting, he becomes obsessed with The Blue Man Group. This odd behavior convinces Lindsay to seek romance outside of her marriage (which leads to little success). Oscar, who has harbored feelings for Lucille for years, attempts to rekindle a relationship with her. Repulsed by this, Buster revolts against his mother for the first time in his life. Gob continues to make "huge mistakes". This plotlines are only the slightest inkling of the stories which come forth in Season Two of the show, as the family constantly double-crosses each other and Gob introduces one of the greatest television characters ever.

At first glance, Arrested Development may not seem very original, as it contains elements of slapstick humor, witty dialogue, and quirky characters. What makes this show unique is the way in which it's able to combine these elements into a cohesive whole, creating something which looks like nothing else on TV. I've read comments from those unfamiliar with the show who have qualified it as "silly" and I can understand that. But further exploration reveals this to be the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, Arrested Development is one of the most intelligent shows around, and it requires that the viewer pay constant attention for three reasons: the show throws many jokes at the viewer at once; the show constantly references ideas and characters from past episodes; and there is usually something funny happening in the background. Along with this, the narration from series executive producer Ron Howard is also very funny and adds yet another layer to the show. The show doesn't shy away from giving its characters depth, and on each episode, we learn something new about at least one of the show's regulars.

The factors which make Arrested Development so great are also the fundamentals which have kept the show from becoming a ratings winner. In short, the show is simply too intelligent for the average American audience, and by that, I mean that it's too fast-paced and requires the viewer to watch every moment of the show in detail. This is the polar-opposite to the average sitcom which requires little to no thought. As Arrested Development isn't afraid to throw several jokes per minute at the viewer, it also isn't afraid to reference past episodes. Thus, one can't simply jump into the show and hope to understand it. Granted, some of the jokes will work, but unlike other sitcoms, Arrested Development works on season-long story arcs and thus includes detailed plotlines. This description may scare off some potential viewers, but trust me, if you start from the beginning and give Arrested Development a chance, you'll will find a very rewarding and constantly hilarious show which is worthy of several repeat viewings.

Arrested Development: Season Two hits DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This three-disc set contains all 18 episodes from the show's second season. The shows are presented in their original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The shows look very good in this transfer, as the image is sharp and clear. The picture shows no flaws from the source material and is relatively free from grain. The show is shot documentary style (another facet which may perplex new viewers) and the colors are all true and natural-looking. The only major defects that I noticed was the constant presence of haloes around the characters and subtle shimmering during sudden movements. Otherwise, the image rivals digital broadcast quality. The shows offers a Dolby Surround audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, but the surround effects are limited to crowd noise or street sound effects. This doesn't diminish the quality of the show, but don't expect overwhelming audio.

This DVD set contains only a few extras, but most are worth viewing. There are audio commentaries on three episodes -- "Good Grief" (Disc 1), "Ready, Aim, Marry Me!" (Disc 2), and "Righteous Brothers" (Disc 3) featuring series creator Mitchell Hurwitz, and actors Will Arnett, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, & Jessica Walter. All three of these commentaries are very entertaining, as the group has just as much fun watching the show as we do. They laugh and joke amongst one another. If anything, the only drawback to these chats is that they often get so involved in the show that they don't give us any background info on what we're watching. Each disc contains "Deleted/Extended Scenes". They are as follows (the number in parentheses represents the number of scenes from each show): Disc 1: "The One Where They Build a House" (2), "!Amigos!" (1), "Good Grief" (3), "Sad Sack" (1), "Afternoon Delight" (1); Disc 2: "Switch Hitter" (2), "Queen for a Day" (4), "Burning Love" (2), "Out on a Limb" (2), "Hand to God" (2); Disc 3: "Motherboy XXX" (1), "The Immaculate Election" (3), "Meet the Veals" (4), "Spring Breakout" (1), "The Righteous Brothers" (5). Many of these are very brief, but some are classics, especially the ones from "Spring Breakout". Disc 1 includes "Overview: Season One in 3 Minutes" which is basically a promo from Fox. Disc 3 offers a 9-minute "Blooper Reel", which has some nice moments. Disc 3 also advertises "'The Immaculate Election' Campaign Videos" which is actually an Easter Egg which is accessed from the Episode Selection menu.

10 out of 10 Jackasses

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